October 12, 2022

Institute for the Study of War: Russia steps up campaign to label Ukraine a ’terrorist state’

Institute for the Study of War

Russia has seemingly intensified its information operation to falsely portray Ukraine as a terrorist state, likely to set information conditions to counter efforts to designate Russia as a terrorist state. Several Russian sources made unverified claims that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers detained Ukrainian citizens for allegedly planning “terrorist attacks” in Sverdlovsk, Moscow, and Bryansk oblasts on October 12.[1] Russian milbloggers relatedly amplified rhetoric accusing Ukraine of being a terrorist state and calling for Russian authorities to enhance “counterintelligence” procedures and formally designate Ukraine as a terrorist state.[2] Claims of preparations for alleged and subversive Ukrainian activity in Russia align with a wider attempt to set information conditions to respond to Ukrainian attempts to formally designate Russia a terrorist state, especially in the wake of recent massive attacks on critical Ukrainian infrastructure and residential areas. The Russian information space may also be setting conditions to justify further massive strikes on Ukrainian rear areas; although, as ISW has previously assessed, these tactics are part of the Russian way of war and will likely be utilized regardless of informational conditions.[3]  Russian authorities may also be setting conditions for false-flag attacks against Russia framed as Ukrainian-perpetrated acts of terrorism.

Russian forces may have brought Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated personnel to occupied areas in Ukraine to train Russian troops in the use of Shahed-136 drones. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on October 12 that Russian forces brought an unspecified number of Iranian instructors to Dzankoi in Crimea and Zalizniy Port and Hladivtsi in Kherson Oblast to teach Russian forces how to use Shahed-136 attack drones.[4] The Resistance Center stated that the Iranian instructors directly control the launch of drones on civilian targets in Ukraine, including in Mykolaiv and Odesa oblasts.[5] The IRGC is notably the primary operator of Iran‘s drone inventory, so these Iranian instructors are likely IRGC or IRGC-affiliated personnel.[6]

Key Takeaways

  • Russia is intensifying efforts to set information conditions to falsely portray Ukraine as a terrorist state to deflect recent calls to designate Russia as a terrorist state.
  • Russian forces may have imported Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated personnel to occupied areas in Ukraine to train Russian troops in the use of Shahed-136 drones.
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian troops continued counteroffensive operations toward Svatove and Kreminna. Russian forces are continuing defensive operations in this area.
  • Russian sources continued to claim that Ukrainian forces are conducting ground attacks in northwestern and western Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted ground attacks around Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
  • Russian forces are likely reinforcing the frontline in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • The Russian military continues to face problems equipping individual Russian soldiers with basic personal equipment.
  • Russian and occupation administration officials continue to employ coercive measures against residents in Russian-occupied territories.

(for full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-october-12)

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